I ran across an article on the Internet explaining why ships are traditionally painted red below the water line. Well, it turns out the first reason is tradition. Early sailors would cover the bottom of their ships with paint mixed with copper—which gave that reddish color—to protect against barnacles, worms, seaweed and other organisms that would otherwise collect on the bottom of the ship. That growth would create drag, and impede the forward motion of the ship. Who knew!
The article went on to say that nowadays “anti-fouling” agents could be added to any color paint, so now you see other colors besides red.
Anti-fouling agents. Wow.
See, here’s the danger of tradition. So often we do things simply because we’ve always done it, or always done it that way, without paying attention to the reason behind it. So, if you paint the ship red—without the anti-fouling agent—you have preserved tradition, but lost the protection that tradition represented.
And here’s where this becomes deeply personal. We as believers are in serious need of anti-fouling agents in our lives. If we are to be “in the world, but not of it,” how can we protect ourselves from the barnacles that threaten us?
The psalmist gave the formula for the spiritual anti-fouling agent in Psalm 119:9, “How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word.” The New Testament echoes that thought in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
And of course, we should remain at all times fully clothed in the armor of God (Eph. 6:10-18).
And if by chance some barnacles attach to our hull anyway, we can scrape them off as instructed in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
How’s your supply of anti-fouling agents?